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Dry spell for airport retail: No new tenant for empty premises at Cologne/Bonn airport

Dry spell for airport retail : No new tenant for empty premises at Cologne/Bonn airport

There is little going on at Cologne/Bonn airport, and fewer passengers also mean fewer customers for the shops. Retailers at the airport need new concepts. The duty-free store has been closed since the end of last year and the airport has not yet been able to present a new tenant.

It is quiet at Cologne/Bonn Airport. The barrier tapes in front of the check-in counters at Terminal 2 do not have to guide queues of people. The rows of travel agencies here are closed, just like all the other shops. Goods lie dormant under plastic sheeting. It is lockdown.

Terminal 1, which is currently the only place where travellers are processed, is not much busier either. Just ten take-offs are scheduled for Friday, three of them at night. Starbucks and Kamps bakery offer refreshments and snacks, the Rewe supermarket is open as well as the Kirschner book and magazine store, but with reduced hours.

And in the security area, according to a synopsis by the airport, three vendors are selling drinks and snacks, with opening hours according to the flight schedule. The duty-free shop has already been closed since the end of last year, as have four other shops run by the operator Heinemann, which employed a hundred people in Cologne/Bonn up until then. A Heinemann spokeswoman said the reason for the closure was "different ideas about the future contractual conditions of the cooperation between us and the airport with regard to shop spaces, taxes and operating times.”

Chance for new ideas

The airport wants to present new concepts to passengers in the 1800 square metre space freed up in the terminals. This is not so easy during corona times. "We are currently holding numerous talks with potential interested parties who have exciting and innovative concepts," said airport spokesman Alexander Weise. The airport cannot yet present any new tenants. However, Weise sees opportunities to implement new, sustainable retail offers and creative ideas in the crisis. "We want to take advantage of these opportunities and are very confident that we will have an attractive range of shops and restaurants in the terminals when traffic picks up again," Weise said. Admittedly, this may still take some time, as aviation experts note. A longer dry spell is likely to be ahead.

Air traffic will probably only reach the pre-crisis level again in the medium term, i.e. in a few years. Business travellers in particular are expected to travel less because they have found that communication via video conferencing also works. This is likely to affect the shops at the airport too.

Retail expert expects longer crisis for airport shops

"Retail at the airport belongs to the world of travel and not to the world of trade. It is dependent on air traffic," says retail expert Thomas Roeb from Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences. He expects a longer crisis for stores at the airport than for the fixed retailers in the cities.

For one thing, the retail trade after security remains directly dependent on the number of passengers. "The special feature of an airport is that retail and gastronomy do not complement each other as in city centres, but they compete for the tight time of the customers," Roeb points out. This is where new concepts are needed from the retailers.

Stabilisation of existing vendors

The airports could try to attract visitors who do not want to travel by offering new goods in the area which is accessible to the public. For Roeb, a fundamentally new concept would be the development of retail space in or at the airports to supply the population living nearby. "But I don't know of any airport that is going down this path," says Roeb.

And it is not likely to be easy. Meanwhile, the airport is stabilising the existing vendors at the airport. "Despite the difficult situation, we have found good solutions with many tenants," says airport spokesman Weise.

(Original text: Ralf Arenz, Translation: Caroline Kusch)